Winter still holds sway, but there is the odd day when you can sense that Spring is just around the corner! Your Garden will be sensing it also, and if you look carefully you will see the buds on trees and shrubs beginning to swell, and the new growth of perennial plants begin to push up through the ground as you start on your gardening in march.
This is the time to start to think about the Lawn. It has lain there all Winter, not doing a thing except perhaps looking more and more sad! Well now it will start to Wake Up!
The first job is to give the Grass a good raking with a steel lawn rake. This will clear out any old thatch – dead grass – and also clear away old leaf litter and smooth out any worm castes. You will need to give the Grass a dressing of Lawn feed, which will give the sward a strong start to the new season. If there is a lot of moss in the Lawn, then use a feed that incorporates a Moss Killer. Do not carry out any of these operations if there is any frost about, this can do a lot of lasting damage.
Shrub, Rose and Tree care:
Now is the time to carry out the final pruning, before Spring growth begins to produce new growth. As far as shrubs and trees are concerned, the pruning operation is aimed at thinning out the shrub or trees structure to allow air and sunlight to permeate the plant. It is also an opportunity to shape up untidy plants, and remove any dead or damaged growth.
Rose pruning needs to be a little more focused. With Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses you are attempting to encourage strong new flowering shoots to come up from the base of the bush. Count about 3 to 4 buds from the base of each branch and cut back the old growth just above an out-facing bud. Remove any weak growth from the centre of the bush. This is also a chance to remove any suckers that have appeared from the root stock. You can recognise these as being much greener that the bits you want to keep and they will also have finer and more numerous thorns. In terms of Shrub and David Austen roses, I would recommend that a good trim down to 30 centimetres, and again the removal of any suckers, will be sufficient.
Now is a very good time to top dress all hardwood plants with a feed of Bone Meal Fertilizer.
Now is you last chance to plant Bare Rooted trees and Hedging plants.
Kitchen Garden and Allotment:
This is your last chance to finish digging operations and still derive some benefits from having the newly turned ground conditioned by the weather.
If you are lucky enough to have some protection like cloches or a poly-tunnel, then you can start sowing some early vegetables: Carrots. Beetroot. Broad Beans. Cauliflower. Cabbage. Spinach. Leeks. Peas. Lettuce. Turnips. And Radish can all be sown now. If you can be sure that your poly-tunnel can be monitored for frost as the Spring wares on, then why not plant some really early maturing Potatoes. Arran Pilot or Rocket are excellent for this purpose.
The cold frame should be coming in to play now. Strawberry plants can be potted and placed in the frame. Lettuce plants raised in the greenhouse can be planted out under the frame. (See our article on Managing your Cold Frame)
Now is the last chance to plant bare rooted fruit trees and soft fruit bushes.
(See various articles on Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry, Raspberry etc growing)
If you have some heated glass, then now is the time to sow Tomato plants and Pepper plants. Put the seedling in the lightest position of the Greenhouse.
It is time now to Plant Shallots, Onion Sets and Garlic.
If you are going to force some Rhubarb, then now is the time to start, but before you do, remember that once the crown has been forced it will not be much use for at least the next 3 years, so is best replaced after forcing.
Now is you last chance to apply a winter wash to your fruit trees. Unfortunately, due to the withdrawal of many chemical substances from Garden sprays, there are only a couple of formulations that you are allowed to use. The newly formulated Jeyes Fluid is still O.K. and also Growing Success’s Winter Wash.
Peaches and Nectarines should now have their final application of Bordeaux Mixture to prevent ’Peach Leaf Curl’ disease.
If you have a heated Greenhouse, then you can start to sow some of the hardier varieties of bedding plants like Antirrhinum and Lobelia . You can also prick-out young plug plants of Begonia and Geranium. Make sure you keep a sharp eye on any sign of ’Damping off’ This is a fungal disease that attacks young, soft plant tissue. The important steps to prevent this happening are scrupulous hygiene; making sure that the compost is sterile and all pots and containers are either new or have been thoroughly scrubbed with Jeyes Fluid or similar disinfectant. Despite these precautions, ’damping Off’ can still occur. If it does you can control it with Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control made by Bayer. Cheshunt Compound was the old cure for this horrible disease, but has now been withdrawn because it contains Copper Suulphate.
Now is the time to plant Gladioli corms, especially if you are growing for cut flowers.
See you in the Spring!